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Northern Pygmy-Owl

Glaucidium gnoma

Length: 6.75 inches Wingspan: 12 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Dark brown or grayish-brown overall, thin dark streaks on belly, spots on crown

Northern Pygmy-Owl - Glaucidium gnomaThe Northern Pygmy-Owl is a small owl of forested lands in western North America.  They are often active during the daylight hours, and are often relatively fearless of a human presence.  Nonetheless, they are relatively uncommon in most locations and are not frequently observed.  They are aggressive towards most intruders into their range, particularly during the nesting season, when the tiny owls will often drive away intruders that are much larger than themselves. They are more accomplished hunters of birds than most owls.  As such, flocks of small birds will often react to the presence of a Northern Pygmy-Owl by "mobbing" the owl en masse in an attempt to drive the owl away. 

Habitat: Found in a variety of forest habitats, typically in open forest areas or near forest edges and clearings. 

Diet: Feeds on a variety of small prey items, including small rodents such as mice and voles, small birds, large insects, and small lizards. 

Behavior: Hunts by observing from a perch, and then flying out quickly to catch prey in its talons when prey is spotted.  They most often hunt near dusk or dawn, but are sometimes active during the day.

Nesting: The nest of a Northern Pygmy-Owl is in a cavity in a tree, often an old woodpecker hole.  The female alone incubates the eggs, but both the male and the female will help to raise the young.  Typically the male does much of the hunting and brings the prey back to the nest, where the female accepts it and feeds it to the young.

Song: Song of the Northern Pygmy-Owl is a series of repeated toots.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident through its range.  However, young birds may disperse short distances in the fall, while some populations that live at higher elevations may move to lower elevations for the winter.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Northern Pygmy Owl sightings

Similar Species: Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Northern Sawwhet Owl, Boreal Owl

Conservation Status: The IUCN currently lists the Northern Pygmy-Owl as a species of "Least Concern".  Much of its range is in areas with little human interference, and there are no indications of any systematic population decline.   

Further Information: 1) The Owl Pages - Northern Pygmy-Owl

2) - Northern Pygmy-Owl

3) - Northern Pygmy-Owl

Image Information: Photo taken by David Mitchell - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Northern Pygmy-Owl - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Northern Pygmy-Owl Images (coming soon!)